No Child Left Behind Funding Gets Big Increase in House Stimulus Bill

Education News 02.2,09

With passage of the $819 billion economic stimulus package in the House of Representatives on January 28, the nation’s primary and secondary schools could finally receive the level of funding under No Child Left Behind (NCLB) originally envisioned when the law was enacted in 2002.

Parents, civil rights advocates, and school district administrators have long criticized the federal government for inadequately financing NCLB, the main law that provides federal funds and sets standards for primary and secondary education. Several provisions of NCLB, such as annual standardized tests and additional training for teachers, are not funded by the federal government, so states and local school districts face the burden of finding money to pay for these requirements in their already-tight budgets.

Included in the $140 billion allocated for education spending in the stimulus package are:

  • $12 billion in the next two years for Title I schools, those schools that have the greatest concentration of low-income children;

  • $1 billion for schools that consistently fall behind in meeting their testing goals under NCLB; and

  • $20 billion for renovation, repairs, and other improvements for primary and secondary schools.

With the $14 billion already allocated in the 2009 federal budget, the additional $13 billion in stimulus spending over the next two years for Title I represents a nearly 50 percent increase from current levels.

By contrast, when compared to the funding levels recommended by Congress, President Bush and Congress shortchanged Title I schools by 48 percent or $12 billion in 2007, and 44 percent or $11.1 billion in 2008, according to the National Education Association.

But with the national high school graduation rate at 58 percent for Hispanics, 55 percent for African Americans, and only 51 percent for Native Americans, compared to a national average for all students of 71 percent, education advocates are concerned that the stimulus bill doesn’t specifically direct money toward addressing the nation’s dropout crisis or the unique learning needs of students who do not speak English as their primary language.

David Goldberg, senior counsel for LCCR, said that the bill’s largest allocation towards education, most of a $79 billion grant program for the states to prevent cuts to various programs, is a missed opportunity to begin addressing the need for large-scale high school reform.

“Unless this funding is targeted to particular schools, it is likely that most of it will be given to well-funded high schools that are more adept at applying for competitive grant money, rather than the under-funded schools that need it the most,” said Goldberg.

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